Colonial Cinema and the Construction of Modern Indonesia's Visual Culture | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This paper examines the significant impacts of the colonial ethnographic film and travelogue on the construction of Indonesia's visual culture and its reconstruction in the contemporary. The colonial scenes have become inseparable components of cinematic experience in contemporary Indonesian films' mise en scène and are viewed as visual elements of progress. The scenes where the camera is attached to the front of the slow-moving vehicles as it travels into the thick jungles, cruises along the untamed streams and glances into the development stages of the wilderness into an industrial society are familiar. The amalgamation of the colonial scenes relates to how Indonesian sees themselves as postcolonial being in the tension of becoming a modern subject in a globalised world and as ecological agents in the rich biodiversity in the landscape they inhabit. Cinema, in this regard, opens the path to normalising the unequal conditions, justifies the colonial act, and presents it as a spectacle. We can easily find similar kinds of images in movie theatres or web-based and social-digital media. The images which problematised the questions of identity, representation, postcoloniality, and modernity in contemporary Indonesia, an oblique position of moving forward with the notion of progress, but never entirely eschewing the domain of the Others. Understanding this complexity is pertinent to open the dialogue concerning Indonesia's position as one of the richest biodiversity landscapes and one of the most populated in the world. The crucial stage that can shape Indonesia's ecological policies and its cultural outputs, where humans are valued as pertinent key players.


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